Theater J Artistic Director Ari Roth once told me he comes from the Anna Deavere Smith school of verisimilitude: He is a writer of fact-based plays. So I’m not quite sure what to make of Preparing for News, a 10-minute play by Roth that will be performed tonight at Theater J as part of the annual Dramathon fundraiser for the Theatre Lab.
The setting is a half-circle of chairs—-a theater company’s staff meeting. Ursula, the director of the “DC Public Theatre & Discourse,” is addressing her colleagues:
URSULA: Fair enough. I’ve been hacked. Okay-there. Someone got to my I-Phone, I think, and sent the entirety of my In-Box and Outbox folders to The Washington City Paper Arts Desk, and their editor is now reading them—or it certainly feels like he is—as he’s Private-Tweeting me questions about matters which, one could argue, are strictly here-say, except they also have a semblance of truth to them, which can only mean that they’ve come from some sensitive, insider source—
CHRIS: This is terrible.
URSULA: Yes it is. Thank you for the commiseration. And we don’t know who leaked. Or if, in fact, there was a leak. Or if someone at the Paper simply has access to one of my passwords.
TIMMY: Oh my God!
TONI: Which is worse!
CHRIS: That is such the violation!
URSULA: Yes, it is. And soon we will all be—Violated—If things comes out the wrong way. As we fear. If whatever is coming out, comes out, in a way that feels harsh, I just want us to be—
CHRIS: What’s coming out, Ursula?
URSULA: I don’t know, Chris.
BAILEY: Well, what are you afraid of coming out?
URSULA: Well, exactly. What should I be? What would YOU be? Afraid of? If you were in my shoes? Let’s do some Role Play! What if this happened? If you were hacked? Or thought you were.
It goes on for a while like that. Maybe this is Roth’s long-stewing revenge for this? For what it’s worth, I haven’t hacked Roth’s phone. (Yet!)
On the bright side, Roth changed my name to Jonathan Shiffman.
As far as I know, the evening’s other short plays—-by Norman Allen, Joe Calarco, Renee Calarco, Allyson Currin, Amy Freed, Jennifer Nelson, and John Strand—-do not contain any Washington City Paper-related themes. The event takes place at 10:30 p.m. at Theater J, 1529 16th St. NW. $25.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery